Friday, July 31, 2020


This triad of stories by Mona Verma boasts of a theme quite unique, of relationships unimagined, and biases that rule. Whether it is the middle-aged Mansi and her perceptions in the story titled ‘I Need Colour’, or the 30-year-old Angela and her guilt in ‘Just at the Finishing Line’, or the older Bala and his patriarchal prejudices that cloud his thinking in ‘The Invisibles’, the readers are stopped in their tracks and made to ponder.

While all three stories are diametrically different, a common thread ties them together. They are sagas of when the paramount disparity arises out of degrees of difficulties. Life can often be unpredictable, where the worthy lose their self-worth as the decades go by, and the mediocre come up through sheer luck and opulence. When neglect hangs in the air, only because no one has bothered to bring the sparkle back in life.

At times, the weight of guilt is too heavy to shoulder, and “remorse is an unrelenting tormentor.” Friendships are priceless, and yet, one stray incident is enough to cause a break that can last over time. The first wobble, a shake, a hint of things growing apart! How many people try and mend that break and move on before it is too late?

Often, men grow old and their offspring take over their lives, turning parents into mere space fillers. Their windows turn narrow, obstructing their view of the world. A patriarchal outlook does not help either, especially when womenfolk are relegated to the background, their opinions never sought, their wishes never submitted to.

What is it that transforms these three tales and makes them brilliant? Mona Verma chooses her words with care, as she turns them into beautiful prose, playing about with metaphors that fall into place with perfection. The way she ends her final story is symbolic of the theme of the book.

“We kept some windows forever closed, but that is not what windows are built for.
They are willing to open if we let them.”

Monday, July 20, 2020

Once Upon a Lockdown - Gripping Tales From a Pandemic Era - Anurag Anand

Anurag Anand’s three stories bring in the gravity of the pandemic that has overtaken the world.

Bhumika, an aspiring actress, who is living it up, gets a break in an acclaimed web series. How does her life change when a virus makes her plans go awry?

The second story, titled ‘Corona Mai’, takes an amusing look at the how a little hoax can take on giant proportions, involving a whole village of gullible believers and canny upstarts who milk the situation for all they are worth.

‘One for the Road’ brings alive the worst nightmare that a woman can face in the times of lockdown.

In a world that has turned topsy-turvy, these three tales by Anurag Anand touch upon realities that thousands of people are going through across the world. Apart from his riveting style and his penchant for apt characterization, it is the looming spectre of the corona virus that makes his narration gripping.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Revolt of the Lamebren - The Super Dome Chronicles by Manjiri Prabhu

I have always run away from science fiction, mainly because I feel that my brain is not wired to enjoy it. However, ‘Revolt of the Lamebren’ by Manjiri Prabhu uncrossed those wires because I did read the book, and I did enjoy it as well.

The novel opens in the engineered Ace-World of the Altklugs, hassle-free and disease-free, where there is zero tolerance for wastage of time, “a world of limitless possibilities and perfection”.

 What, then, mars this seemingly perfect world? On the other side exist the lamebren, a word coined from lamebrain, a species pitiable, helpless and unaware of their fate. They cower under the tyranny of the super-intelligent Altklugs, with no control over their miserable lives.

It is into this world that G 23, a brilliant lamebirl who prefers to call herself Zinnia, is thrown. A square peg in a round hole, Zinnia is a true heroine, who refuses to knuckle down to the Altklugs, and her brave struggle for justice and survival is the theme of this book.

Zinnia moves forward, giving names to her comrades who answer to mere numbers. Her fortitude shines through as she keeps the Lamebren gang together “like the split crystals of a snowflake – split yet connected.”

As the novel progresses, the Altklug world is portrayed and contrasted brilliantly against that of the Lamebren. Perfection versus imperfection, knowledge versus flesh, bones and feelings!

What role does love play in this mechanical world? What is the price that lovers pay? What happens to the lamebren when they outlive their utility and what secrets are the Altklugs trying to hide? How does Zinnia pit her wits against those of her Altklug rulers and does she come out victorious? These, and many more interesting questions, are answered in this book which hurtles to its end, taking the readers along.

Manjiri Prabhu creates a world in her own right, one that talks of skyways, padlets, mudra, memory porters, isolation chambers, sky radars, the digi-eye and the terrifying Dissolution Crypt. What struck me was the way she uses contrasts to transport the reader away from this passionless world, leading them along the beautiful Paramour Path and the Dome Museum. There is a mesmerizing description of the Water Vein tunnel, where “the blend of colour, shimmering water and white stone was graceful and ethereal.”

While an overtone of fear runs through the whole book, it is highlighted in the descriptions of the Snarl or the Deep Forest, “raw, unpolished and wild and a little frightening too.” However, it is here that a ray of hope shines forth that helps the revolt to culminate in a thrilling climax. The Altklug do not “understand the melodious, touching music of love and life.” Manjiri Prabhu ensures that her readers, through the persona of Zinnia and the lamebren, do so.

‘Revolt of the Lamebren’ is a well-crafted book written by a writer who has mastered the art of balance. She spins a tale that keeps the interest of the reader, and their hope, alive!


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